The fact that EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson appears shaken after reports of the illegal displacement of refugees in the Aegean Sea and demands clarification from the European border agency Frontex is very welcome, but also seems hypocritical. »If Frontex actually took part in pushback campaigns, that is absolutely unacceptable. That should never happen, ”said Johannson. The EU Interior Commissioner emphasized that people have the right to apply for asylum. One must prevent refugees from being sent back at sea.
After Frontex initially refused to even investigate the pushbacks, the authority later announced an internal review. So far, however, “no documents have been found to support the allegation.” That sounds as if those responsible wanted to sit out the excitement again:
After all, there have been reports of pushbacks for years. Refugees, activists and human rights organizations have repeatedly pointed out the illegal practice in the past. And even the then Frontex director Ilkka Laitinen had admitted in October 2013 that Frontex had pushed boats in the Mediterranean several times a year and had deported refugees without an asylum examination procedure, even under threat of violence.
Nothing has happened since then – push-backs are still an integral part of European refugee policy: a policy of isolationism of deliberately allowing people to drown, which not only arrests civilian rescue ships on flimsy grounds, but also criminalizes sea rescuers. A policy that spends hundreds of millions of euros annually to prevent people seeking protection from reaching the EU. The »European Agency for the Border and Coast Guard«, which was founded in 2004 and has a military upgrade and is based in Warsaw, is only the last resort.
If the EU ever wants to live up to the Nobel Peace Prize, which it was awarded in 2012 for “its commitment to peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights”, then Johansson’s words must be followed by legal and political consequences. A first step would be to finally dissolve Frontex.